1815
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Dream.

Consolation, with other Poems.

Rev. William Gillespie


44 irregular Spenserians, of a most uncommon two-rhyme pattern: abaabB. William Gillespie's fantasy an angel-form takes the Dreamer on a tour of picturesque scenes, among which one recogizes allusions to the Despair episode from book I of the Faerie Queene, and the Fountain scene from book II. The fairyland passage is ushered in with the cloud-castle metaphor from the Castle of Indolence, from which Gillespie also appropriates Thomson's magic mirror.

Prefatory note: "As an apology for the wild extravagance of the following Poem, it is to be observed, that is nearly a faithful representation of that which it is denominated — A Dream" p. 158.

In this fanciful romantic vein, derived from Richard Savage's The Wanderer (1729) and Joseph Warton's The Enthusiast (1744), compare Thomas Dermody's "The Extravaganza" in Poems (1802) and the fantasies in Robert Perse Gillies's Childe Alarique (1814).



I laid me down by the pure streamlet's edge,
Forlorn and listening to its babbling strain,
Falling in silver jets from ledge to ledge,
Bathing the lady-fern and water-sedge;
And while the bubbles broke and formed again,
I mused on human joys, so transient and so vain.

When, lo! beside me stood an angel form,
Snow-robed and beauteous, with a look as meek
As the mild sunbeam smiling through the storm,
And sweet as evening blush, so soft and warm;
Immortal roses blossomed on her cheek,
Fair as the blushing tints that summer mornings streak.

Around me swift an azure mist she rolled,
That moved with circling rainbows in the
And, wrapt within its thin aerial fold,
"With me," she says, "thy pathless journey hold;
Nor fear while, now protected by my might,
We measure earth and seas, and heaven's cerulean height."

An ivory rod waved graceful in her hand,
And as she touched me with its magic power,
Feeling my soul with extacy expand,
To soar aloft I scarcely could withstand,
Buoyant as leaves before the electric shower,
Or silvery mists that dance at noontide's parching hour.

Swift up the undulating air we flew,
And seemed a cloud which moist south winds impel;
Now stooped to skim the ocean's empire blue,
Then pierced its floods, that from our course withdrew;
Till many a fathom deep, with fainter swell,
We heard the waves above, that ever rose and fell.

Led by the trembling light down many a mile,
We reached a coral cave of crimson dye,
From its steep sides the circling floods recoil
With soft and melancholy sound the while;
Where many a golden fish glanced to the eye,
And writhing shells, whose tints might with the orient vie.

The crystal gates on tuneful axles turned,
When, lo! a spacious hall disclosed to view,
Whose canopy with sparkling lustre burned
Of clustering spars, like starry heaven, adorned,
That ever shed a rich and various hue,
And round the fairy dome a gleamy brilliance threw.

And through the lucid concave far above,
I saw the foam-tipt billows ebb and flow,
As the light clouds that o'er the welkin rove;
While every ship which through those billows strove,
With snowy sails and many-coloured prow,
Would there her passing form, as in a mirror, show.

There sat a maid, who sang with witching air,
More sadly-soothing than the Eolian strain;
O'er her fair bosom played her golden hair,
Than ocean's foam appeared her skin more fair:
Fain would I list, but, cried my guide, "Refrain;
Know that death lurks unseen oft in the mermaid's train."

Then thought I of the soft deceitful lure
Of beauty, smiling only to destroy,
To charm with love that can no medicine cure,
Then mock the pain her victims must endure:
Thus, in Arabia's wild to pilgrim nigh,
Refreshing streams appear, yet still before him fly.

When my good angel waved me to be gone;
"We speed," she says, " beyond the solar beam,
Where Night with silence holds her ebon throne;"
Down, down she led through paths so drear and lone,
Beyond whate'er of depth the mind could dream,
Yet there the passing ghosts with stony eyes would gleam.

At length a wail of woe assailed mine ear,
As if it from innumerous voices came;
Scarce could my soul those direful wailings bear,
As to a formless gulf we drew more near,
Illumined by a dismal gleaming flame,
Where writhed a monster dire, Despair his hated name.

Thus, far at sea the sailor nightly hears
The dread Lofodin's wild tumultuous roar,
Whose eddy even the dread sea-monster fears;
With such emotions the Messenian steers
'Twixt Scylla and Charybdis' fatal shore,
As pierced my trembling heart while to that gulf I bore.

Not far beneath me sat in lengthening rows,
A sable crowd, their faces downward bent;
Wrapt in their shrouds, they seemed to mourn their woes,
With long-drawn sobs that never found repose,
And many a plaintive moan they upward sent;
I marvelled at the pangs which thus their bosoms rent.

When they, as conscious all of my desire,
Uprose with looks which anguish wild confest,
Then from their bosoms drew their dark attire,
And showed their hearts that glowed with living fire;
Then shook their heads, sat down with eyes deprest,
Then mourned and sobbed anew — I must not speak the rest.

When, lo! a cloud whose raven wings were spread
Broad, deep, and thick, that ever darker grew,
With slow ascent arose, and 'neath its shade
Disclosed, O horror! — but my guide forbade
I ever should reveal what then I knew;
I turned my head away, all shuddering at the view.

"It is enough, and God is just!" I cried,
"Yet terrible in justice!" — when away
The heavenly maid before me upward hied:
Lost in the misery which I had espied,
I followed long, till the fair beams of day
Shone o'er the icy pole with trembling lustre gay.

There spread the polar landscape far and wide,
Where waves of yore, to spiry mountains froze,
Yet fall with awful crash oft in the tide,
That ever tries to climb their azure pride:
While shaggy monsters track the glittering snows,
And the loud penguin's scream oft breaks the dread repose.

Yes, far and wide, beneath the gelid sky,
Like crystals shooting from some rocky base,
Innumerous glaciers point their peaks on high,
In lengthening vistas, shifting with the eye;
While each the prism's varying tints displays,
Brighter than orient gems, commingling in their blaze.

High o'er these glaciers, radiant on the sight,
A mighty palace towered, with walls serene
Of purest crystal, which, as diamonds bright,
Threw on the sapphire heavens their flashing light;
Such as the boreal gleams so frequent seen
To paint the starry north with flickering lustre sheen.

Around its walls a shadowy vapour played,
That now or closed its folds or now unfurled;
Now robed those icy walls, now disarrayed,
Where dwells the King of Storms enwrapt in shade;
Fierce from whose arm, with thundering sounds, are hurled
Hail, hurricanes, and snows, to awe a trembling world.

Nor stopt my guide, but up the welkin blue
She bade me follow, while, as light as air,
Soon the thin golden clouds we journeyed through;
Then turned I round, the lessening earth to view,
That seemed a speck in the ethereal sphere,
While all the starry orbs more ample shone and fair.

As when some daring wight adventurous tries
To mount in light balloon the ethereal clime,
And rising through the rainbow-clouds, descries
This dusky orb, still fading on his eyes,
Suspended 'twixt the heaven and earth sublime;
So through the void I soared, swift as the wings of Time.

Or as a bird, in narrow cage confined,
Within some city's dark and crowded street,
Soon as she freedom gains, gay on the wind
She springs aloft, and leaves the town behind,
Flies to her natal groves, so green and sweet,
Where Love and Beauty dwell, and Health and Pleasure meet.

More buoyant still my spirits grew and light,
As o'er the mists of this gross world I rose;
Gay as the lark I wantoned in my flight
Amid those limpid realms so pure and bright;
Till in that land awhile our wanderings close,
Where still the eye is charmed, yet never finds repose.

'Twas a fair land, and formed each sense to please:
Gay at my feet a torrent leapt away,
Bathing the foliage of the slender trees,
That in light arches trembled to the breeze;
While through their leaves the sun's enlivening ray
With changeful rainbows dyed the ever-dancing spray.

Here beauteous nymphs from noontide's sultry glow
Oft bathed them in the streamlet's gelid swell;
Now indistinct appeared their forms of snow,
Now soft emerging from the floods below,
Would from their streaming locks the drops repel,
That o'er their throbbing breasts in liquid diamonds fell.

Fond as I gazed, evanished from my sight
The sylvan landscape, — and instead was seen
The tranquil ocean glittering in the light;
Where many a pinnace, decked with colours bright,
Threw its fair image on the blue serene,
Circling the wooded isles that rose so soft and green.

Wild bursts of music on the ear would break
Delicious, and of countless birds the song;
A thousand tints those changing scenes would take;
Now moonlight slept soft on some mountain lake;
Now morning blushed the orient verge along;
Now eve her yellow hair shed the dim clouds among.

Thus with each breathing of the fitful gale
New scenes appeared, as though 'twere all a dream:
Lo! spreads before my sight some flowery vale;
Then savage hills, whose cliffs the storms assail;
Now wint'ry frosts with spangling lustre gleam;
Now Summer opes her charms enamoured to the beam.

As in some brook the school-boy loves to view
The passing clouds their towering shadows cast,
For ever various, yet for ever new:
So marvelled I, while with each wind that blew,
Some beauteous scene, in pleasing contrast, past
The former lovely seemed, yet lovelier still the last.

"'Tis fairyland," then spoke my guide the while;
"Here dwell the genii that o'er slumber reign,
That with gay dreams the drooping heart beguile,
And soothing hopes that only rise to smile,
And phantasies, that sport along the brain,
Which with ideal bliss still cheat our real pain."

Drawn upward by the sun's attractive sphere,
Swift through the heavens again we soared on high,
So the thin mist mounts on the morning air,
Till we alighted in that world so fair,
Whose humid tints were of a fairer dye,
And forms of lovelier grace than e'er had met the eye.

Far from the disk of this blest world I found
A concave sphere of radiance, that from view
Of earth conceals the orb it moves around ;
Like the bright ring which Saturn's globe has bound,
That inward still a mild effulgence threw,
And lights the stars without that rove the ethereal blue.

Here smiled the robe of spring for ever green,
Diffusing sweets from flowers of every dye
Meandering streams rolled musical, serene,
Kissing their pearly sands and sparkling sheen;
Or bathed the odorous shrubs that bent to spy
Their forms nod in the floods, that ever whispered by.

Oft would these streams to living lakes expand,
Where snowy swans sailed round each osier isle;
Majestic woods waved in the zephyr's bland,
Shading the beams from this delicious land;
Luxuriant arbours forming all the while,
With amaranths entwined and flowers that ever smile.

And beauteous birds their loves perpetual sung,
Fluttering amid these alleys ever gay,
Where mantling vines their richest clusters hung,
And golden fruits to leafy branches clung;
While through each opening, smiling to the day,
Hills, seas, and woods appeared that in the distance lay.

But who may paint the angel forms that move,
The happy tenants of this blissful clime,
Where dwells immortal youth, with deathless love,
Bright hosts who now the meed of virtue prove,
Whose thoughts are like their God's, pure and sublime,
Unconscious still of woe, because they knew not crime.

Oft in a magic mirror would they gaze,
Where all the scenes of mortal life were cast;
Then human folly filled them with amaze;
Yet their own bliss, by contrast, served to raise,—
The dreams of guilty joy, that cannot last,
And all the pride of wealth and power so quickly past.

When, hark, melodious from the woods arose
A burst of song, expanding as it flew,
We are immortal!" — all joined in the close,
Then paused till even the echoes found repose.
We are immortal!" burst the sounds anew,
Then sweetly died away the balmy welkin through.

"These," said my guide, "are they who in your sphere
Have bravely triumphed, even the good and wise;
New guests from thence are still arriving here,
So wakes their joy, removed from guilt and fear;
Refining still, they by degrees shall rise
To brighter worlds than this, and taste sublimer joys.

"Yes, happier they shall still rejoicing shine
In fair Perfection's ever brightening way;
Pilgrim of dust! what mighty doom is thine!
E'er to approach the source of love divine,
Though ne'er to reach it, as on morning's ray
Soars the light cloud to heaven, and brightens with the day.

"Let high ambition then inspire thy breast:
Say, what is life?" — No more could I sustain,
For now with light ineffable opprest,
Down on the fragrant turf I sunk to rest;
Extatic visions in my bosom reign,
They only dream of bliss within this blest domain.

I woke — when, lo! deserted by my guide,
I lay where first she found me by the stream;
The sun rolled o'er my head in noon-day pride,
With tuneful plaint the mazy streamlet sigh'd;
But still let high ambition be my theme,
And truth from fancy learn, even in her wildest dream.

[pp. 159-77]